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A Woman of Many Pints (tomato sauce)

October 26, 2009

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Many of my parts are aching this evening – I have been cooking and rearranging my living room furniture. The cooking was a long drawn-out affair; simple (a sauce) but one that I planned to can. Moving furniture was something I could do during the stretches when the sauce was simmering.


This is a phone photo taken early in the preparation, after onions and garlic have softened and eggplant has been prepared (I salt and let it sit before rinsing and using). This 3/4 inch dice softens down considerably during several hours of cooking.

Good eggplant recipes are at a premium around here—I keep my eyes open for them since I usually have a bumper crop every year. There’s a Middle Eastern recipe with pork, onion and tomatoes, served with mashed potatoes, and there’s that thin layer I sauté and put in my lasagna. I have frozen breaded eggplant slices ready for parmesan casseroles this winter. And I recently found a new recipe for a tomato sauce with eggplant cooked so soft it just melts into the tomatoes. It cooks with "three or four branches of fresh basil." Good! I have a smallish hedge of basil out in the yard this year. (This is from Lidia’s Italy, her Slow-Cooked Summer Tomato and Eggplant Sauce, a recipe large enough to feed a small army.)

As I type I’m listening to a raging thunderstorm move overhead. We’ve had so much rain late in the summer that my eggplant, a Mediterranean-type crop, has been treated to the climate of a temperate rainforest. It has languished, dropping yellowed and rotting small fruit, not carrying any to full size this fall. But I have this great recipe and Albertson had eggplant on sale so I bought four to go with the huge can of diced tomatoes I bought at the restaurant supply place last spring. I was going to make tomato sauce and practice canning it. Only this summer I had so many tomatoes from my garden that I never had the occasion to open a can of tomatoes to practice, I had plenty of my own to juice and sauce all summer. But I digress.


Another phone photo, after the tomatoes have heated to a simmer, and just as the basil, stems and all, is submerged. The branches are removed before canning.

The recipe calls for pounds of produce, not a simple cup of this or pint of that. This can was six pounds, and I had about four pounds of eggplant, 3 cups of chopped (home-grown) onions, plus the plentiful basil. Add a ¼ cup of olive oil, a ¼ cup of garlic, some salt and extra water, add time, and that’s your recipe. This is one of those ones where each stage takes at least an hour.

While I cooked I had a couple of questions for Dean Crabtree, my canning guru. We have cell phones on the same plan that have picture mail and a 2 megapixel phone (good for a phone, puny for a normal camera) so I sent him a couple to show my progress.

"Wash the jars, right, but I don’t need to sterilize them, right?"

"Right. Rule of thumb says you only need to sterilize if they process less than 10 minutes."

"I need to get that thumb one of these days."

I won’t include a photo of my living room; that is still a work in progress. This sauce took a long time, so I got a great workout with the carry/drag movement of large pieces of furniture. When the last timer went off after processing these jars (for 40 minutes), I was ready to call it a night.


The cherry tomatoes planted last spring never quit, and the super fantastic I replanted in August are sprinkled with hard green fruit the size of tennis balls. We have enough autumn left so they’ll ripen, if it doesn’t rain so much that they rot. Homemade tomato sauce and juice are a possibility, if enough ripen at once. Otherwise, we’ll use a few for the last BLTs of the season and eat the rest as they ripen or drop them into whatever is cooking at the moment. I’m about ready to hang up the canning lifter until next summer.

 

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